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Federal officials join with local agencies to protect Emery County from flash flooding

ORANGEVILLE, Utah – Residents in Emery County are breathing a sigh of relief now that a multi-million dollar project to protect Orangeville and other areas from flash flooding is finished.

It was a frightening sight during the summers of 2014 and 2015: a river of fast moving mud and debris sweeping down the creek beds and in some spots, overflowing the banks.

“There is a home right down here that every time it flooded, we would be down there sandbagging,” said Roger Swenson, the mayor of Orangeville, who says the small town was always at the mercy of Mother Nature.

“This creek was full of water and flooded our city parks, our baseball fields and threatened some homes down here and farm lands,” Swenson added.

But the damage wasn’t just happening in Orangeville.

The dirty water was polluting irrigation water and plugging pipes with mud. So local and federal agencies teamed up, making improvements to seven locations in the county, where flash flooding was causing problems, including a way to capture and keep flood waters from reaching clean water sources, according to Jay Mark Humphrey, with the Emery Water Conservancy District.

“This structure here will prevent sedimentation from reaching the reservoir and filling the pipelines with sediment, that goes to the irrigators, the cities and the power plant,” he said.

The federal Natural Resource Conservation Service’s Emergency Watershed Protection Program helped to fund the $4 million effort and is expected to reap $9 million in benefits.

“Now that we have provided this protection to those homes, the roads the infrastructure, the utilities, the people of Emery County will be a little safer during a flood,” said Bronson Smart, the NRCS state engineer for Utah.

Government entities working together that will allow people in Emery County to sleep again through a thunderstorm.
“When the thunderstorms hit in August, I don’t have to run down here to make sure we are not flooded,” Mayor Swenson said.

He is hopeful that the city will be able to expand its city park, and perhaps add a softball field, now that the park is better protected.

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